on life, music etc beyond mainstream

You are currently browsing the blog archives for the tag ‘review’.

Archives: review


Tous les panneaux de sortie sont allumés. I listened to „Simian Angel“ for the first time at the end of summer, sometime ago, on headphones, at night. A long cable, a chaiselongue in the garden. Heaven seems to be the most lonesome place, at least from the point of view of gardening and Japanese tea ceremonies. Nearly knowbody knows this album.

Strange enough, we can still feel in harmony when looking at the sky at night, that time being seduced by Oren Ambarchi‘s album – two long compositions that defy definitions, limits, opening a constant feel of joy and wonder, kling and klang. A touch of kosmische music here and there.

His guitar sounds like a synth, and an organ, most of the time, and when he plays what sounds like a piano (and is again, made with his guitar – a special treatment really), you might feel, for a moment, a „Music For Airports“-vibe – just another illusion, up, up, and away, with the blink of an eye.

Oren’s partner is Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, and when he starts on berimbau at the beginning of vinyl‘s second side, you are in wonderland. Yes, I thought, for another sequence of seconds, of Nana Vasconcelos‘s famous (or not so famous) solo album „Nana Vasconcelos“, the one with violins and violas coming completely out of nowhere, and knowing about Oren‘s passion for a lot of ECM records, I’m quite sure he might have had a similar memory, for a moment.

The music is crossing area after area, you are not able to, surely not keen on marking a spot. All exit signs on! The earth never solid, the percussion drifting in the windmills of your mind. Not all riddles solved, what do you think. I listened to it again tonite. Another word for melting kindly required, all these thin places.



Trio Tapestry‘s sense of melody, space and  letting-go  is immaculate. I will always remember their first record, one of the jazz miracles of 2019. For me, it was the best album Joe Lovano ever made, with Manfred Eicher’s perfect sequencing of the tracks. Listen to the vinyl: suspense, sound and silence in perfect union. It is quite natural that this follow-up lives up to the high standard of the first meeting in New York. Now with a deeper touch of Provence pastel and colours at dusk. You can think of every jazz writing cliche of praise, from „filigree“ to „elemental“, and be sure that Lovano, Crispell and Castaldi are breathing new life into it. After the first three pieces of pure baladry (written by soul, not by the book), the appearances of sound take more and more adventurous side steps, from moments of pianistic unrest and upheaval, to an exploration of metal and sound in Castaldi‘s drum figures. A zen-like purity‘s bold pairing with an adventurous spirit. The record delivers everything with grace, selflessness and the most nuanced sense of  tempo, time standing still and a flow of undercurrents. If this sounds slightly over the top, let the music take over, dim the lights and follow the tapestries!


2020 28 Aug

Ein nie wahrgenommener Satz

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | Tags: , , , , , Comments off

Als ich den Text fertigstellte zur Wiederveröffentlichung von „Wrong Way Up“ (s. „From the archives“), las ich auch quer über andere Texte zum Album, und staunte nicht schlecht, als ich über eine Songzeile stolperte, die ich nie bewusst wahrgenommen hatte, obwohl ich das Album unzählige Male gehört habe und dachte, mittlerweile in jeden seiner Winkel gekrochen zu sein. „If It all fades away, let it all fade dancing away.“ Das ist so eine Zeile, die sich mir unter normalen Umständen so tief eingeprägt hätte, wie der eine oder andere Vers von Cohen oder Lennon/McCartney. Aber ist es nicht genau das, was wir an Alben lieben, die uns durchs Leben begleiten: sie überraschen uns nach wie vor, und ihre Tiefenwirkung lässt einfach nicht nach.

2020 10 Jun

The thing with all this misery

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | Tags: , , Comments off

In every life some rain must fall, they say, and sometimes the rain pouring out of the skies is nothing else than a decent, sometimes depressing break-up. Everybody has a story to tell, and some musicians chose to do it in their own peculiar ways, and we call it „break-up album“. Frank Sinatra has done it, Marvin  Gaye has done it, Richard and Linda Thompson did it and burned all candles down in real studio time. It’s still a never-ending discussion if ABBA or Joy Division have recorded the saddest farewell song of them all. When I heard that English maverick Darren Hayman is the next one in the line of the heartbroken, I was not particularly impressed. For someone who loves to take one „lateral drift“ after the other, from the British countryside trilogy to old Florence, from legendary Apollo astronauts to open and disused British open-air swimming pools, a break-up album doesn‘t seem to be the most original choice. But there you are, down and out, and you don‘t give a shit on having a knack for outsider stuff. Thing is I started listening to it without great expectations and was, honestly, blown way after the first seconds. I listened to Home Time twice in a row, and loved every song. I loved the (black) humour, the sadness, the melodies, the twists, the sounds of the instruments, the sound of the room, the lyrics, the space between the lyrics, the survival techniques, the music hall tradition, the cover painting, the elevation of my mood.  It‘s quite a brilliant affair. And maybe the most jubilant break-up album ever. It‘s not too hard to believe the hardest was behind him when recording began, with a deep relief crawling from the margins to the center of every sad, sad, (not so) sad song.


Discourses is Jon Balke‘s third solo piano album. With the second one, the wonderfully seductive Warp, sound processing & sound design enter the field – a subtile undermining of the piano‘s purity. The Norwegian composer (b. 1955)  is a member of the „ECM family“ since the early years, with his first appearance on Arild Andersen‘s album Clouds In My Head (1974). Let‘s skip his broad range of works as a leader since the days of Nonsentration (1991) and come to the here and now. When I first heard the new album, I immediately sensed that it was not Jon‘s idea to simply add more colours to the sensual palette of Warp. I felt urgency, anger, ruptures. There is something faithful though, a sense of mystery wrapped around melodic figures. Discourses is a very special record.



Do you agree when I say, Discourses is the „dark sister“ of Warp? It is a very dense work.


I sincerely don´t want to direct how people hear this album, and I am happy to hear totally different and opposite interpretations of the music. But, yes, it is connected to Warp and also to Book of Velocitites (2007) in the sense that it explores the same situation, which is the solo artist and the surroundings (Book of V playing to an empty room, Warp playing to a world that starts to respond). And then I have tried to make Discourses a more focused album than the previous two, in the sense that it explores a smaller field of dynamics and tonal concepts. More focus on micro-details. So a detour into a smaller space, in a way.


Of course in these days new albums are often linked with Covid 19. Thus, nearly automatically, when looking at the cover, I imagined some early social distancing exercise. When listening to the album I had the impression of a kind of fight going on between uncompromised self-expression and a threatening counter-force of some kind. Am I wrong?


No, you are right, absolutely. I am concerned with society and political developments, and do not make music in a vacuum. And, since this music had language and rhetoric as direct inspiration, the music is a reaction to the deterioration of language in political discourse. In a way the Covid crisis highlights this even more, with the desperate press conferences we see too often by leaders who have made catastrophical choices all the way into this disaster. I took the cover photo on a morning square in Malmo, Sweden, and made a series of the same theme that I the crossfaded with each other into a slow-mo movie, because the light was good and the people moving isolated in their own world.


The new album is somehow inspired by language, but words themselves are absent.


I am attracted to the music of language in rhetoric, and dayly speech: how we use tonality and flexible, non-metric rhythm to express as precisely as possible what we want to say. We pause, we rush, we punctuate, we climb in pitch. Also how we make a statement, debates it, argue for it, return to it, conclude. The solo speech is a good school for solo piano playing.

Discourses will be released tomorrow. How do all these strange sounds care for additional suspense without interrupting the flow of listening? What has been the role of producer Manfred Eicher in the final mix? How come this „smaller space“ is opening up again and again? You can hear other parts of my interview with Jon Balke during the radio night of „Klanghorizonte“ on June 20, and as part of the „Jazz Facts“ on July 5 (Deutschlandfunk).


Every once in a while there comes along an old-fashioned, experimental song album that is overflowing with ideas and melodies, nevertheless focussed and carefully assembled up to the tiniest details, at the same time extremely relaxed (close to an ancient J. J. Cale vibe), with a broad palette of rare sounds and a stunning theatre of voices (mainly from the man himself) – altogether a wonderfully performed manual in getting lost, though always linked to a deeply human agenda of our existence. Rustin Man‘s „Drift Code“ is such a work. Paul Webb has learned some reverberating lessons in the nights and months of Talk Talk‘s „Spirit of Eden“ recording sessions, and following an old tradition from the likes of Scott Walker and Robert Wyatt, he‘s not hesitating to nearly disappear for many years (after his marvelous expedition of „Out of Season“ with Beth Gibbons), risking dust from the history books, just waiting for the music to finally fall into place (exuding an energetically pure and primordial atmosphere, nothing less). Drift Code“ may be the perfect album for those armchair travelers who love to listen to albums from start to end, with a knack for the strangeness of things they only think they know about.


They were a short-lived group with a history. They were nearly lost in oblivion, aside from the happy few New Yorkers with some of their vinyl from the early days of CBGB’s. Arthur Russell was part of the game, and part of their ending, but The Necessairies were not his band. First steps included a single produced by John Cale. Brian Eno lived around the corner. I never even heard the  name of the band, till the label sent me the reissue vinyl copy. Nice cover, I thought. And Arthur Russell? Remember this fucking genius who died so early – the endless line of HIV victims brought bitter endings to a blossoming cultural climate of the ’80s. Arthur Russell was no icon, no hero, he was a versatile composer and creator who preferred the background, loved going  to extremes and sabotaging every trace of mainstream.  He was re-discovered by a long article from David Toop (!) in the „Wire“, more than ten years ago. From that time on, his old works surfaced one after the other. The Necessairies belonged to his most accessible collaborations, maybe one of the reasons he quit service on a taxi ride when street traffic brought evrything to a long halt. For him it might have looked metaphorically. Life is full of errors. Listening to the re-mastering of „Event Horizon“ left me stunned. You know the difference between finding an artefact from times long gone and nod your head in respect – and jumping from your seat by the sheer joy of a „love at first sound“-album . „Event Horizon“ is such a beautiful thing, that of course exists in a power spot of New York’s New Wave offsprings from  The Modern Lovers to The Talking Heads. That said The Necessairies delivered their unique version of sharply cut „sunshine avant-pop“ with a fantastic rhythm section, great guitar work and the undergrowth of Mr. Russell. Its originality and playfulness is ending every discussion of just playing the memory game.

I built myself a metal shakuhachi. You will have to wait a bit, dear reader, for the return of this instrument. What am I doing just now, aside from listening, on various levels, to Brian Eno’s new piece of Thinking Music? Well, thinking, and stretching the now – ordering a Jack London novel, daydreaming about my next travel to the Northwestern Highlands. A grey day today. I’m not experienced in synaesthesia, but the slowly rolling tones of „Reflection“ add an unspeakable colour (of the mind) that makes the grey catchy in a non-catchy way. Drifting. Returning. There’s, from time to time, a whistling, a kind of whistling, but, probably, it’s no real or treated whistling. What kind of landscape does this music breathe?

Mhm. An early-morning-Emil-Nolde-coast-vibe. A memory of myself standing on the cliffs of Dunnet Head at the beginning of 2016. No colours exploding on this new album of, say it with a smile, „Modern Mood Music“: once upon a time, the great British music writer Richard Williams just used this expression as headline for his Melody Maker review of Brian Eno’s „Music for Films“, Weather Report’s „Mr. Gone“ and Jan Garbarek’s „Places“ (one of the best Garbarek albums, by the way). Nice reframing for the old use of „mood music“ from Muzak to Martin Denny’s Martini-Rosso-Exotica.

Wait a minute, „Reflection“ just draws me in again. Later on I will look for my exotic birds, darken the room, light an African candle (they are called „Swaazi“), put „The Jungle Book“ on the screen – bongos in the bush of ghosts. I divert. The Nolde-coast metaphor is just an imagination, nothing to be taken too seriously. I remember, an orange grove in Morocco inspired one of Eno’s other thinking pieces, „Neroli“. The place, the smell, the heat, it all might have added up to or informed some free floating tones, an unheard vibration – unfolding within another long stretch of the now.

London in summertime (long ago), a paper and pencil-shop, I’m looking for some postcards, suddenly I see a smart and beautiful looking woman, immediately ready to having a word with her, such as „Would you lead me through the streets of London?“ I’m just thinking of a somehow more prosaic first phrase, when I hear my name being called from the back of the shop: „Michael.“ It’s Brian, his old studio has been just around the corner, and we have an appointment for an interview on „Neroli“ later in the morning. So, within seconds, one of my favourite musicians and a dream girl in the same room, I was a bit confused, I explained (no kidding, but with all brevity required!) the complex situation to Brian, he apologized for interrupting me, I say, nevermind, how could you know, turned around again, she was gone. Like an apparition.

When you listen to „Reflection“, apparitions, memories, ideas, pictures, feelings, thinking (sideways), it all may come up, along with some really „deep listening“ (the term coined by the late composer Pauline Oliveiros, who really had a knack for the long lasting drones and uncompromised moods) engaging the left and the right field of your brain. Free floating trance. „I want to be the wandering sailor / We’re silhouettes by the light of the moon / I sit playing solitaire by the window…“ 

The old impact of asynchronism and generative processes in music: you always hear something different, though the components stay the same, or, nearly the same. Steve Reich was the pioneer, with „It’s Gonna Rain“, and some other tape pieces. Brian Eno, always keen on cybernetics, later created „Music for Airports“, and other Ambient classics, with this working method (as small part of the game of creating).

Now „Reflection“ draws me in again, a kind of relaxed magnetism. Sometimes the composition is flooding my living space, sometimes I’m writing at other places, with the music in mind. That’s a difference, cause your memory is never shooting pictures of a track without some mild distortion or nostalgic timbre. Memory is a remix. In the windmills of your mind, certain motives swirl around, prevail, endure, vanish.

The term „old school ambient music“ might arise with first reviews, and, to be honest, this kind of labeling surely deserves a „kick-in-the-ass-treatment“. Compare, f.e., „Neroli“, „Thursday Afternoon“, „Discreet Music“ or „Lux“ – all these musics open up quite (understatement!) different fields of moods and rooms and surroundings (another question is, in a review full of diversions, it’s Thinking Music, isn’t it, why don’t Eno’s ambient works get some well-deserved 5:1-remixes, to make them even more immersive, „Reflection“, at least, will get its generative App for your computer).

So, returning to my kick-in-the-ass-treatment, a term like „old school ambient music“ narrows the focus and totally ignores the diversity, let me be more precise, the extreme diversity of all these slowly evolving compositions. For someone who is more on the „Metallica“ side of sounds, or the „real-music-is-handmade-and-sweating“-approach, this all may be boring stuff, for someone who can at least imagine that thrill-seeker’s paradise might be compatible with the „adagio“ unfolding and exploring of the never everlasting now, every single ambient record might by a seductive invitation into the unknown.

„I built myself a metal shakuhachi.“ What a weird sentence to pop up while listening? Is there anything that sounds like a metal shakuhachi on „Reflection“? Nope, or: dunno. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the music, another label (but ungraspable): „Metal Shakuhachi Music“ – though there’s no metal vibe and no Japanese bamboo flute artifact. But even more so there’s a melting  of the electronic/systemic and the soulful/organic. Left with uncertainties can be a gift – like not being trapped in old school knowledge can be a gift. Just, well, surrender. It even works on old, new vinyl.


Dear Micha

many thanks for that very interesting and inspired review. I really enjoyed reading it – and I hope other people can find some of the same depth in it that you’ve found. I deliberately downplay the musical qualities of these long ambient pieces because I prefer people to regard them as ‚functional‘ – and then to discover (if they want to, if they’re able to, if they need to) that they are really music. It’s a nice surprise for them then.. have a lovely christmas wherever you are. I shall be in Italy, probably sleeping. It’s been a busy year…


London, Dec. 18th


2016 1 Nov

Brian Eno: The Ship – a review and a story

| Filed under: Blog | RSS 2.0 | TB | Tags: , , Comments off



A late summer’s night in the distant future. If there is still life, there will still be radio stations! In this case a rebuilt light tower on the lonesome crowded American West Coast, not far from San Diego. In her popular show „Off-Centre Adventures Thru Sound“, DJ Mireia Moreorless – intelligent of expression, high of heel, intoxicatingly nonchalant of superiority – takes the listener on a stroll through British music history between 1975 and 2020.

In the space of five hours, she plays a lot of classics. A short look at her playlist reveals, amongst other gems:


Talk Talk’s „Laughing Stock“
Scott Walker’s „Bish Bosch“
John Cale’s „Music For A New Society“
PJ Harvey’s „Let England Shake“
Robert Wyatt’s „Cuckooland“
Gavin Bryars‘ „The Sinking of the Titanic“
Portishead’s „Third“
Brian Eno’s „The Ship“
National Jazz Trio of Scotland: Standards, Vol. IV


The Ship got its airplay in the middle of the night, people called that record still „spooky“ in 2135, especially „Fickle Sun (i)“. It was the first record she’d ever heard by Brian Eno; her grandfather played it one night, on a soundfile with Gustav Mahler on it. As well as The Dead Kennedys, Squarepusher, Nick Drake, John Lennon, Hamish Imlach, Ivor Cutler, Fugazi, Arvo Pärt, and some East India Youth tracks from his Mojo „album of the year 2020“.




Ah … yes – the opening scene of „The Ship“. Gently does it. Nothing much happens, an oceanic view, „Music for Dead Harbours“, no humans involved, no figures in the landscape. Not yet. Things slowly unfold after minutes – the here and now will maintain the ineluctible quality of the long, faraway gone throughout.

Life – what’s left of it – slowly awakens. The Ship drifts further off, with Brian Eno’s deep voice, hitting the low C, announcing what’s going on, delivering a Sisyphus / Lazarus job giving its best to stand the test of stoicism. This is the rise and the fall and the wash and the fade. The ebb and the flow. Sooner or later other voices will gather around within earshot – via the ether, megahertz radio chatter: ghost voices, disembodied intonations reassuring themselves they are alive. Kicking.

All continuity fractures: a postmodern parody of a Greek choir. A crack-up, a falling apart, in comes „Fickle Sun (i)“, another poorly dimmed world …


„and so the dismal work is done‘
‚the empty eyes, the end begun‘
‚there’s no-one rowing anymore …
… abandoned far from any shore.“



The tone changes from the first moment on „Fickle Sun (i). A tour-de-force without parallel among Eno’s works. These 17 minutes observe everything turn to dust and rubble. If it isn’t an unconscious channeling, Eno’s full-bodied singing during the opening passage suggests some serious source studies of sea shanties and maritime tavern songs from Northumbria down to East Anglia. Songs from similarly desperate, earthier times.

Eno’s voice with all its treatments is a real treat. Here the passionately executed lines have their own colour and discrete shade and shape – at one point like distant cousins of The Unthanks – specialists in contemporary versions of ancient country and sea folk with its perennial cycles of love, hate and disaster.

Ahh, sea songs.


– Worse things happen at sea, Vladimir.

– That is true. But you do know where we are, Estragon, don’t you? Yes?

– No, I mean, well, … not really. Where are we?

– On the ocean, Estragon. Floating on the ocean. Can’t you hear the waves lapping lustily? Nor hear the seagulls squawk-squawking violent regret that no sardines shall be srown into ze sea?

– Yes, Vladimir. Well actually, no. I thought the racket was just louts! But the floor is rolling, and, well, we are standing on what looks like a fo’c’sle.

– Right.

– Right …

– Do you remember the Gospels?

– I remember the maps of the Holy Land.




The sea is a recurring theme in Eno’s oeuvre: full of yearning in ‚Julie and I‘, rich in humour in ‚Backwater‘, vast and immense in ‚Dunwich Beach, Autumn 1960‘. Languid, faintly heartbroken, green and luminous in ‚Becalmed‘. The element of surrender has always been the common thread, but until now this topic hasn’t been realised with such bleakness. A starless, bible-black frieze. A widescreen void.

This work suggests the everyday darkness of wartime. And the liminal space where every last breath is a long slowmotion leap onwards toward permanent relief from pain and trauma. And in this liminal space the cup is not broken but is so near to broken that neither ‚broken‘ nor ‚unbroken‘ fully applies. A juncture where language for now, has stopped working, its semantic flow interrupted.

Out of nowhere, in this album of constant losses and sudden appearances, an electric guitar suddenly howls painfully before decaying, at length, into oblivion. This old instrument is an unexpected guest here (especially with its history and associations. Goosebumps and shock value guaranteed. Christian Fennesz couldn’t have done it better here. Nor Edgard Varèse).

Then, into this overwhelming symphonic microcosmos comes the Scott Walker moment – fifty or more more hot shots of brass, da Daa DAAA. Highly effective in its apparent simplicity (and, yes, phonetic approximations are ridiculous when you’re trying to describe the way your breath is being taken away here). Think of it as an Ernst Jandl anti-war poem: ta Taaa TAAA. Again&again&again&AGAIN. Crescendo time. Shoot me to the end of night.

After this (the track’s climax – in fact the climax of the whole album) the song turns into a highly sensual study of decay, or, more precisely, a mourning: ‚All the boys are going down / Falling over to the ground‘. If a textbook ever covers the parallels between the works of Gustav Mahler and contemporary music between 1970 and 2020, then ‚Fickle Sun (i)‘ will have an entire chapter devoted to it.




Not that we know anything of Eno having a thing for the Austrian composer, but the point’s simple – while the likes of Wagner liked to pour on emotionalism and actorly heroics, Mahler lets all the pathos trickle away, the icebergs of grand musical gestures are always being melted down to the textures of wastelands – lost illusions of control.

So does Eno in the closing moments here. Single vocal lines linger. Mumblings of the dying (‚ … when I was a young soldier … ‚). But no-one’s seeing light on the other side, or angels pulsating in the corners of the frame. There’s something in the absence of dancing photons in the peripheral vision. Probably best not try to describe in detail what goes on in the final passage, where the echo chamber of voices takes over – cos it could easily sound like a lysergic acid-submerged moment out of a Philip K. Dick-novel.

Over the waterfall. That’s a simple way of putting it.




„Fickle Sun (ii)“ is a Speaker’s Corner surrounded by a sea of turmoil, disturbance, entropy, weird beauty and unrelenting loss. After two long compositions dealing with the cost of hubris and the solitude of dying, when this track appears it’s like an aftershock. All quiet, but the ground still shakes, and the album’s central topics bounce around like semantic UFOs in the mind’s sky: „… The hour is thin / Trafalgar Square is calm / Birds and cold black dark / The final famine of a wicked sun …“ 

Spoken by actor Peter Serafinowicz in a voice that defies drama and distance, and accompanied by a delicate, minimal piano figure that knows where to hold breath, the piece sets the listener’s mind afloat and wondering – with all its verses, quotes and lines derived from the „Markov Chain Generator“: „And the web that died yesterday / I was a hard copy version / I turned my eyes directly to hate“

Using a mix of computer-generated chance operations and last refinements of a human being, this „man-machine“ is the perfect link between what came before, and what will come after. It’s a clearing of thoughts without leading those thoughts in a certain direction. Sharp and short as this track appears, it creates a properly surreal mental space: „Tired of what the world has yet brought forth / With the women wavin‘ at war“.




The whole beast is a contemporary lamento of the highest order and ends with a jukebox-song you possibly can’t resist to get lost in. Sounds strange? It does. Brian Eno often looks for a resolution, a passage of release, on the final tracks of his works and has done so since HERE COME THE WARM JETS and TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY).

Not being a rule he hasn’t broken from time to time (think of ANOTHER DAY’S ON EARTH’s frightening finale „Bonebomb“, a favourite track of David Bowie), Eno offers a state of momentary bliss with his version of the old Velvet Underground-track „I’m Set Free“. Bleak existenzialism of the original turns into a gospel-tinged, future „evergreen“, with swelling strings and singing of the stone melting kind.

After the long and immersive journey this masterpiece (yes, that it is!) has been inviting you to before (a hell of a ride, executed with passion, stoicism and sadness in equal parts, sonically adventurous throughout), one probably is easy prey for this hymn on its way to rock bottom or heaven’s saving grace, until the very last, dying note – not overhearing the undercurrent of melancolia:


„ … Now I’m set free /
I’m set free /
I’m set free to find a new illusion … „





The Feint Gunpowder Blue


The feint gunpowder blue of early morning light reflects in her pupils as DJ Mireia Moreorless breathes in deeply and exhales. She’s closing her marathon of British old time avant-greats with Robert Wyatt’s ‚Sea Song‘ and a twisted tale about a big wave by Ivor Cutler. These nights at the lighthouse radio station are her preferred mode of time travel – but now, under a postmodern California sky, she’s just happy to see her cyborg lover Kasumi waiting at the entrance area in a carmesin red Austin Mini Hydrogen. A soft kiss, and Kasumi lets herself smile broadly at the vision in the passenger seat.


Au Pont de Neuilly


Let’s pause for a short while here, since you may possibly want a bit more about Mireia. If she’s a type, she’s the woman you sometimes see on the Paris Metro. She doesn’t see you. She’s probably on her way to Pont de Neuilly via an interchange to Line 1. Idiots stare at her. But you don’t, and don’t need to, because her nonchalant superiority shoots like moonbeams in a billion directions, and those moonbeams even in peripheral vision are in themselves a cosmic blessing.


Time Itself Could Escape


The secret is simple – she never realised the world’s pedestal for her. Her dad was watchmaker who invented a tourbillon that could counter the effects of gravity so well that time itself could escape its strictures within the space-time continuum. Her mum was a nurse. To her, being a DJ is a humble occupation.


Bullets of Adulation


People fire bullets of adulation her way, all the time. And every single time, they miss. But one day, soon, she will meet her match. And life will move haltingly in the light, for a second, while in another hemisphere stars will fall across the sky in 1000s at random, speeding along brief vectors from their origin in a question mark to their destinies in dust and the nothingness that is nowhere and is endless.


Night Flights Over Los Angeles


She first met Kasumi in a supermarket in Carmel, sometime during a week-long early autumn surfing trip. It didn’t take long to register. They have so many interests in common – leftfield music, jukebox culture, exotic car travels, French cuisine, tantric sex, helicopter night flights over Los Angeles, ghosts, rivers, standing stones, Bakerloo Line moquette, Highland castles, Curly, Larry, Moe, Shemp, lucid dreams, tea, clouds, rain.


Slowcommotion Wilderness


The night’s programme of music has been immersive but there’s no suggestion of fatigue. Mireia’s senses are still in fifth gear. At home, in their tiny beach house, they make love to one another, today in their „slowcommotion wilderness“ mode that doesn’t involve much movement. Afterwards, Mireia falls asleep almost immediately, and when she wakes up four hours later, she remembers a dream with a wooden jukebox and her grandfaher telling her about when there had been a jukebox revival in the early 21st century.


Coq au Vin


She opens her eyes, and sees Kasumi preparing coq au vin for the evening. After a short swim in the ocean, she moves through the living room and puts a vinyl record on their record player, an ancient „VPI Prime Forward iii“ designed by machines in Japan and manufactured by other machines in New Jersey in 2055. She puts on one of her evergreen albums from the era of last night’s journeys through old Britannia, Brian Eno’s „Oblique Collection of Antique Jukebox Adventures“, a big seller in 2019.


Irony of Fate


That guy who once coined the term ambient music, had his biggest commercial success (irony of fate) with a collection of heartwrenching, nevertheless strange versions of classic and bizarre pop songs. Eno once had an a capella group (just for the fun of singing), and one of the rules was never to publish any of the things they were doing in the comfortable space of his studio. But then, he gave it a second thought.


Django Rheinhardt


Who covers their covers in glory? Johnny Cash has done it (and brilliantly so in his last years), Bryan Ferry has done it, Patti Smith has done it, Cat Power has done it, Willie Nelson has done it. Kasumi won’t. She improvises lyrics to crackly bakelite Django Rheinhardt favourites like „Minor Swing“ and „The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise“, but only sings them unaccompanied, in the shower.

Eno listed songs he liked very much, and focussed on those where he was confident enough to add another unknown layer. And of course the final choice had to suit his way of (very British) singing with slim vocals, and no big paint brush.




Mireia looked on the tracklist while the first song was playing: a dark earcandy version of Ray Davies‘ „Rainy Day In June“ followed by a new version of The Beatles‘ „Tomorrow Never Knows“, Eno himself had once sung on Phil Manzanera’s „801 Live“. A really special collection, including two Everly Brothers classics, The New Vaudeville Band’s „Winchester Cathedral“, Scott Walker’s „It’s Raining Today“, Tom Waits‘ spoken-word piece „What’s He Building“, and The Doors‘ „People Are Strange“.




When the Doors song finally appeared, Kasumi appeared. She put her arms around Mireia, and they both sang along with Eno’s singing:


„People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted
Streets are uneven, when you’re down
When you’re strange, faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange, no-one remembers your name“


– written by Michael Engelbrecht and Ian McCartney


„Wow! Michael, this is the most brilliant review I’ve ever had. Thank you so much. I shall treasure this (- and of course send it to everybody! – I’ve already sent it to Peter Serafinowicz). It’s not only a great review in the normal sense, but it’s a ‘great’ review as in a great piece of writing. Fantastic idea, to write as though looking back from the future. Funny you should mention Ernst Jandl. He was a key figure in my life: I saw him at the Poetry Olympics in London in June 1965 – a barrel-chested, red-faced, stocky presence, unusual amongst all those slightly effete Americans like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. What he did that evening is the only thing I clearly remember – the rest of it has sort of merged together into a sort of general stew of 60’s beat poetry. Please give my regards and thanks to Ian. Brian“ (Eno’s reponse after the first of posting of the text, a week before its release. In November, everybody can experience „The Ship“ as an installation in Hamburg.)

„Pascal avait son gouffre, avec lui se mouvant.
— Hélas! tout est abîme, — action, désir, rêve,
Parole! Et sur mon poil qui tout droit se relève
Mainte fois de la Peur je sens passer le vent.“

(aus dem Gedicht „Le Gouffre“, von Charles Baudelaire)




Ich bin für einige Tage in einem kleinen Hotel nahe Lyon, wo ich u.a. alte Interviews vom Band transkribiere, Gespräche mit David Torn, Michael Naura und David Darling. Ausserdem gefällt es mir, in die französische Sprache einzutauchen und mit meinem alten Schulfranzösisch, einem dicken Wörterbuch (Deutsch-Französisch), und einer hilfreichen Hand, eine kleine Besprechung zu Brian Enos „The Ship“ zu schreiben. Für den französischen Text erhalte ich 1500 Euro. Einen kleinen Teil davon investiere ich in die Rückübersetzung ins Deutsche. (Und all das ist zu diesem Zeitpunkt bereits passiert. Mein besonderer Dank geht an Chantal Aubry, und den Redakteur einer französischen Zeitschrift.)

Solch herausragende Werke wie „The Ship“ ziehen normalerweise ein gespaltenes Echo nach sich, weil sich eine jüngere Generation eifriger Musikjournalisten gerne an Altmeistern reibt und abgrenzt, um einem neuen Ideal von „cool“ das Wort zu reden – und der Name „Brian Eno“ allein ein ganzes Arsenal einfältiger Klischees produziert, von „Godfather of Ambient“, bis „Professor Pop“.

Womöglich sind nun bald auch einige schnell dabei, das Konzept des „Konzeptalbums“ als antiquiert zu bezeichnen, und ein Werk, das es sich auf die verblichenen Fahnen geschrieben habe, vom Untergang der „Titanic“ und den Schlachtfeldern des Ersten Weltkrieges inspiriert zu sein, wohl etwas grosspurig und mit „progambienter“ Attitüde auftrete, aufwallend und weihevoll.




Nun, meine Damen und Herren, das ist alles Mumpitz. Was Sie Ende April in Händen halten, wenn sie sich für die CD oder die Vinylausgabe von „The Ship“ entscheiden, ist nichts weiter als ein zukünftiger Klassiker, obwohl ich niemanden kenne, der vehementer gegen die Kanonisierung von Kunstwerken eintritt als Eno selbst. Doch steht „The Ship“ selbst in seiner umfangreichen Diskographie einzigartig da: noch nie wurde von ihm die Liedform so radikal dekonstruiert, so beiläufig von herkömmlichen Chorus- und Refrain-Strukturen befreit. Elektronische Klangsäulen, stabil und flüchtig, punktieren den leeren Raum. Zu Anfang. Eine archaische Szenerie, ein Weitwinkelblick ins Nirgendwo, anzusiedeln zwischen „Music  For Airports“ und „Lux“. 

Der Sänger (der insbesondere als Chronist laufender, unendlich trauriger Ereignisse in Erscheinung tritt) bewegt sich, in einer raren Balance aus stoischer Ruhe und Melancholie, in den Tieftonarealen seiner Stimme, mitunter umgeben von Stimmengetaumel, Nachrichtenfetzen, und anderen Bruchstücken angeschlagener, bald verendender Lautmeldungen.

Ein moderner griechischer Chor nach der Selbstauflösung, dem alle Kohärenz (und sowieso alle Götter) abhanden gekommen ist, der sich nur noch aus verstreuten Tonaufzeichnungen speist – ein Theater der Stimmen, ein Theater der Geister: „… and so the dismal work is done” / “the empty eyes, the end begun” / “there’s no-one rowing any more, abandoned far from any shore …“

In der zweiten Grosskomposition „Fickle Sun (i) ist Enos Gesang bewegter, er scheint sich in alte Traditionen britischer Folkmusik versenkt zu haben und „channelt“ Gesänge, deren Quellen bis ins tiefe Northumbria reichen könnten. Eno und ein „sea shanty“? Oft hat es ihn aufs offene Meer getrieben: „The Radio is silent / so are we“, hiess es einst in „Julie With …“




Aber zurück zu „Fickle Sun (i)“: das Tempo des Gesangs bleibt gemässigt, die emotionale Wucht unterschwellig. Für das Drama sorgt die komponierte Musik, die Landschaft ringsum um die Stimme, ringsums Stimmengewirr. Wenn Sie es noch nicht geahnt haben, werter Leser, handelt es sich bei „The Ship“ um ein zeitgenössisches Lamento. In manchen Passagen ist die Musik sternenlos und bibelschwarz.

Aber nicht alles ist immenser Raum, Totenstille und Verkündung: in „Fickle Sun (i)“ taucht plötzlich, wie aus dem Nichts (man hat schon vergessen, dass es dieses Instrument überhaupt gibt, ein Effekt von Amnesie in tiefer Trance), und nur für etliche Sekunden, eine elektrische Gitarre auf, mit schlicht verstörender Dissonanz: ein Hörer könnte da leicht aus dem imaginären Sessel fallen, als hätte ein Blitz in der Nähe eingeschlagen.

Im gleichen, siebzehn Minuten langen Stück (ich verrate die Stelle nicht) zieht sich die Stille einmal verdächtig zusammen (man möge sich daran erinnern, das Atmen nicht zu vergessen), um dann zu explodieren, in einem nach Blasinstrumenten klingenden Horrormotiv TA TAA TAAA TAA TAAA TAAA TAA, das, lautmalerisch in Buchstaben verwandelt, immer etwas lächerlich wirkt, in der Dunkelheit gehört (und bitte hören Sie das Album in gut verdunkelten Räumen!) eine beträchtliche Erschütterung auslöst, jenseits von Hollywoods Soundtrackschmieden. Eno, der Expressionist.




Nach diesem akustischen Stromstössen irrt der Lauschende durch einen Stimmen- und Gesangspark  irrlichternder Wortfetzen, gekrümmter Vokalisen und Gemurmel aus dem Off, der einem seine Ohren spitzenden Scott Walker ein Lächeln auf ansonsten ernste Gesichtszüge zaubern würde.

Es beginnt „Fickle Sun (ii)“, eine Gedichtrezitation, die alle falsche Erhabenheit meidet, und dessen weit ausholender Wortpool erst einmal durch den „Markov Chain Generator“ gejagt wurde: in diesem Zufallsgenerator werden diverse Textquellen wild verrührt (lassen Sie sich ruhig verwirren!) – eine ordnende Hand sorgt für die letzte Fassung. Die Kunst dieses Textes besteht darin, dass der Hörer aus jeder linearen Logik katapultiert wird, und abwechselnd einen zweiten und dritten Weg ums eigene Gehirn erprobt. Weh dem, der hier nach der Bedeutung fragt. Alle Semantik erschliesst sich unter der Haut.

In der Tradition vieler Alben des englischen Klangkünstlers ist das letzte Stück vor allem der sanften Entropie zugedacht, dem offenen Horizont, der unheimlichen Sehnsucht – meisterhaft, wie ein neuer Ohrwurm für die Jukebox ihres Vertrauens, interpretiert Brian Eno den alten Velvet Underground-Song „Set Me Free“ (aus der Feder von Lou Reed). Aber auch da geht es zu keinem Moment um eine allseitige Beruhigung und billige Katharsis – es bleiben ein doppelter Boden und eine Falltür.

Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt | Datenschutz